There are very few franchises that mean more to me than Dragon Quest, and as such, I was very worried about the idea of a Minecraft copycat being thrown into an amazing library of games. Now, after playing the game for over 60 hours, I wonder why I ever had any doubts about it in the first place. Dragon Quest Builders is by far one of the best games I’ve spent my money on. The worlds, characters, and general appeal of Akira Toriyama’s art design are still very relevant and make the game feel like a unique experience, rather than a simple builder game. In fact, Builders has so much charm that I completely forgot about the game play elements that are taken from games like Minecraft.
Somehow, this game has managed to stand completely on its own two feet. This game has accomplished so many feats that I never would have expected a game of this genre to even attempt; it has a very cool storyline, very fun game play and combat mechanics, and some of the best re-orchestrated music in the series. If you have only the slightest interest in Dragon Quest Builders, please do yourself a favor and pick this one up as soon as possible.
The story is set in Alefgard, the very same place that Erdrick and his descendants fought evil for the first three games of the series. The world is once again shrouded in darkness due to an agreement that the Hero of Alefgard made with the Dragonlord. All of the towns have been destroyed, and everybody has forgotten how to build, expect for one very important person: you. It is up to you, the Builder, to rebuild all of the towns and help citizens go back to their normal, everyday lives. Not an existing fan of the series? Don’t get discouraged! Builders succeeds in making the world feel very fresh and new, even without the slightest bit of knowledge about the other games in the series. The allusions to the original trilogy are certainly plentiful, but you can certainly get by without knowing and enjoy it just the same.
The lore is very well presented, and the characters are very memorable and charming. The setup of the game is very much like Dragon Quest IV. There are four different chapters to play through, each with a different theme and cast of characters. Personally, I loved the idea of visiting tons of different locations and finding new materials. Unfortunately, though, each of the four chapters start you out with no materials or supplies, and you’re forced to rebuild everything from scratch. At first, I was a bit disappointed, but I actually ended up really appreciating the idea of the game more because of it. It makes you feel like you really are meant to travel the world and recreate everything.
Dragon Quest Builders isn’t simply Minecraft; it’s very much still an RPG game. You have to work your way up to the top, and progression is one of the biggest motifs displayed throughout the entirety of the game. Builders generally does away with most of the RPG elements seen in previous games in favor of having a different purpose and style of gameplay. You are not the hero, and you are told this again and again as you build your way up, fighting powerful enemies with your creations rather than leveling up. It’s very unique in that materials become more important than killing monsters for experience, so sometimes it’s best not to fight everything you come across when you’re looking for something you need in order to rebuild your town. Again, one of the biggest draws toward Dragon Quest Builders is that it is unique and different. It’s hard to do something different every once in a while, and it’s certainly amazing what this game brings to the table.
Two of the things I found that made it seem different from Minecraft were the inclusion of quests, and the idea of blueprints. Obviously, quests are typically only found in RPG or Adventure games, and to be quite honest, this game is both. The blueprints are simply that: blueprints. You could argue that it takes away certain bits of creativity, but the blueprints works as more of a guideline than a necessary set rule. You are free to destruct your built blueprint or completely remodel the room that you have created into whatever you'd like.
While there is a sandbox mode available after you complete the first chapter, it’s not the real reason why this game does what it does. The real reason you play this game is to experience the journey. The quests have you gather certain materials to build certain rooms or weapons, defeat certain monsters, visit certain locations, or find people to bring back to your town. Some of these quests are required to continue onto the main story, but there are also random side quests scattered throughout the many areas you will discover during your time in the game. It’s the people that you meet and the things that you do that truly create the experience of the game, not just building itself. Even if you’re just looking to build, you can do that too, but by the end of it all, you’ll have realized that the journey you just went on was grand and beautiful. Nothing can replace the experience of a massive, important journey.
Beauty is defined as a characteristic that gives you a satisfying and pleasurable feeling. The first thing that comes to mind when starting up Dragon Quest Builders is simply that. Everything is vibrant and beautiful in Akira Toriyama’s signature style. There are so many different colors and designs that every area feels different from the last, not to mention how memorable all of them are. During my time in the game, it felt almost as if I truly lived amongst the people of Alefgard, breathing in the same air and living in the same town. It’s a very personal experience that truly makes you feel not only a part of everything, but like your actions really matter and affect the world around you. The score is absolutely no different. Builders re-orchestrates many of the absolute best pieces from each of the games, but mainly includes themes from the first four games. Each of the themes fit in very well to each world and situation that the game presents the player, from grand and adventurous to barren and desolate. The music seemingly gets grander in scale throughout each of the chapters, making you feel as if your changes are truly benefiting the world. Dragon Quest Builders is an absolute artistic dream come true.
Dragon Quest Builders is definitely a great stride of creativity in the gaming world. Going in, I didn’t expect anything more than the ability to build things and killing a bunch of slimes. What I got was something far greater, and far better than anything I could have imagined. You have the ability to completely change everything around you, and you can truly feel the importance of your role; even the aesthetics and sounds are great enough to evoke that kind of emotion. It gives you an awesome sense of accomplishment, surrounds you with some of the most interesting concepts that this genre has ever seen, and makes you feel like you’re worth something in this world. This is what it means to be a Builder.
Most of my time is dedicated to tearing apart games and movies, then telling you what I think about it. I've been a gamer since birth, practically born with a controller in my hand. I've always spoke my mind, so critique was a natural fit. Twitter: @Jsrf38